What to say about this book? Who is Robert Ross?
Oh, the difficulty of giving praise to a novel I enjoyed rather than criticizing one I disliked! I've previously read Timothy Findley's The Piano Man's Daughter
and honestly don't remember much about it at all. It just wasn't that memorable to me - all I know is that I didn't love or hate it. I vaguely remember the plot, but I don't feel like giving it a re-read to find out more. Disappointment.
And that's why I was so surprised to find out that this book, recommended by a friend, was by the same author. My CanLit knowledge is sadly lacking, I know. The Wars
is seemingly a novel about finding out the Who?
question. Who is Robert Ross? Who is the narrator? But as you read on, it answers others as well, and raises more. The reader is taken on a journey back in time, all the way to the First World War, to discover the life of Robert Ross and just why he's where he is at the end of the story, wherever that is. It's a mere distraction from the fact that this novel documents the things great and small that make up the various characters of the war, from the soldiers to the tactics, from the friendships made, and the ones lost amidst the trenches.
Timothy Findley writes with visceral images in mind. You taste, touch, hear, smell...instead of just seeing the battles, you feel
them. The main reason I found it hard to believe that it's the same author was how perfect this novel was written for a re-read. Timelines shift seamlessly, segments of Ross' life will appear then fade in the background as the war takes precedent again, and it's all muddled, ready for another discovery as we dive right back in the next time. Nothing is ever completely clear, but it makes no difference because there's always something new each time.
Such an imperative book to read. No surprise it's a classic.